As an archer, I’ve always wanted to improve my accuracy and consistency when shooting at 3D targets. In this guide, I’ll share what worked for me to quickly improve my accuracy, and you’ll learn how to become a better 3d archery shooter.
There are three main aspects when it comes to improving your shots. Technique, equipment, and practice. Get back to the basics and improve your stance, grip, draw, and anchor. Get equipment that aid you. Don’t use a rangefinder. Practice on bullseye-targets instead of 3D targets. This will skyrocket your accuracy.
There are quite a few variables when it comes to bow accuracy and consistency. These are the tips that have helps me the most when working on improving my accuracy for 3D targets. These are applicable for both compound, recurve, barebow and longbow archers.
Having a consistent stance is very important for accuracy. Working on improving your form will give you a high return on your time investment. I recommend trying out both the square stance and the open stance, and ignore the closed stance. A square stance is where your feet are perpendicular to each other, whereas an open stance looks more like the typical MMA stance, where your feet are not perpendicular. Regardless of stance, feet distance should be about shoulder width apart and feel natural. Many archers find their stance naturally, but it’s always a good idea to go revisit the basics and eliminate eventual flaws in your form. The closed stance is the opposite to the open stance. It feels uncomfortable and provides no stability.
Some Olympic archers use the square stance, while others use the open stance. They both can provide the type of accuracy and consistency you’re looking for. It really comes down to personal preference. I use an open stance because it gives me balance and feels comfortable. Also, make sure to hold your breath when aiming until release allows for a more consistent aim.
When I was new to archery, I used to grip the bow really hard, thinking it would help with my accuracy. Turns out it gives the opposite effect. You actually lose control when you grip the bow really hard (also known as the death grip). When I saw Olympic archers swinging their bow after shooting, I investigated and found out they actually don’t hold on to the bow when aiming and after release. This eliminates user errors that otherwise can occur. Since there only are two contact points between you and the bow – the bow and the string, you’re effectively eliminating possible errors with the bow hand by not gripping the bow.
A wrist sling or finger sling is attached to the bow to keep the bow from falling to the ground each shot. A sling is not necessary but can help you. If you do not want to use a sling, then remember to keep a relaxed bow hand. At first, you’ll need to make it a conscious action, but with enough repetition, it’ll come naturally and eventually you won’t even think about it. It’ll just be part of how you shoot with your bow.
If you are specifically shooting targets, then you should let the bow drop and use a sling. You can still shoot very accurately while gripping the bow. Just try to relax the muscles in your hand as much as possible and with some practice, it’ll give you a more consistent accuracy. Try gripping the bow with only two fingers for a lighter grip.
Like previously mentioned, there are only two touchpoints when shooting a bow. The grip and the draw. If you can master these two touchpoints, you will be well on your way to hitting those 50, 60 or even 100-yard shots. After you’ve gripped your bow properly as described above, point the bow towards your target, extend the bow completely, gently pull the string and find your anchor point (which I explain in the next tip).
A release aid is designed to eliminate mistakes that can happen when releasing the bowstring and removes any pain related to drawing and releasing the string (which is unavoidable when you practice for long periods of time). A mechanical release aid attaches directly to your string or D-loop and provides a consistent and easy way for you to release the string. There are different types of release aids for compounds and recurves, which I cover in full depth here.
Release aids are fairly cheap and can improve your accuracy a lot. Some release aids can even work as an anchor point.
An anchor point is reference marks you can use to increase consistency. For example, an anchor point would be the back of your hand touching your jaw or having your thumb behind the neck. There are plenty of anchor points that you can experiment to increase your consistency and therefore your accuracy. When you’ve found a good anchor point, keep using it as your reference, and you’ll find that it’ll have a great impact on your consistency.
#3.1 Reference points
Another great tip is to use the surroundings as reference points when practicing long distance shooting. Let me give you an example. Say you’re trying to hit a 3D target at 50 ish yards. Aim at a specific spot on a tree behind the target, see where the arrow hits and adjust accordingly (when practicing). Obviously, you’ll only get one shot per target when doing 3D archery. Keep adjusting the aim with the same stance, draw, and anchor, and you’ll get closer to your target until you eventually hit. Adjust your reference point depending on the surroundings. Be creative!
#4. Bows and equipment
The equipment you’ll see in a 3D tournament will vary heavily. You’ll see both recurve, longbow and compound archers with different setups for sights and stabilizers. Remember to comply with the class rules that apply.
Make sure your equipment complies with the rules for the course you’re going to play on!
Bow – While a heavier bow requires more strength and increases fatigue, the added weight will work as a stabilizer.
Stabilizer – For bowhunter classes, you’ll most likely not be allowed to use a stabilizer over 12 inches.
Release aid – As previously explained, a release aid is a piece of equipment that helps you get a consistent and optimal string release. Can be very useful for improving accuracy.
Bow sight – Another add-on you might consider adding is a bow sight. Some events restrict the number of pins allowed, most commonly 4 on the high end.
Kisser button – A kisser button is a cheap attachment installed to the string and help you with the release. It’s also a fantastic anchor point.
Arrows – For bowhunter class shooters need to use arrows with screw-in field points, and 4-inch vanes. Beware of the varying arrow speed limits. ASA has an arrow speed limit of 290 fps (feet per second). IBO have a different set of rules when it comes to speed limits, varying on classes, age etc.
Make sure your equipment complies with the rules for the course you’re going to play on. ASA and IBO have a different set of rules, and the rules are different for younger practitioners.
Alright – so you got your stance down, and your gear is on point. What now? Well, the next step is to go out there and practice. As a guideline, spend around 10% of your time reading and 90% on practicing archery. That is the most efficient way for most people to improve. Good luck!
Extra tip – Shoot a Robin Hood
Are you still not happy with the accuracy of your shots? Once you have eliminated the obvious issues like stance, draw and using an anchor, you can try this simple technique.
Shoot an arrow into a bullseye, then aim your second arrow at the first arrow. Why? Because it’ll force you to focus on a more narrow point, instead of looking at the entire target. Keep increasing the distance as you improve. Another option is to use a paper cup that you attach to the bullseye with the open part outwards and try to hit the inside. Try different placements on the shooting target for a challenge.
Bullseye targets and the robin hood technique have had the greatest impact for me in improving my accuracy. Make sure you get comfortable with different ranges. You can even practice guessing ranges to get a natural feel of how far away your target is since you won’t know the range in the field.
I hope you found these tips as helpful as I did when I first learned them. Good luck on improving your aim, and have fun!